By JACQUI HENDERSON
A few weeks ago, I had this phone conversation with Tanya Jenkins, and it left me in tears.
Tanya was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 36 years of age. The words “you have breast cancer” left Tanya feeling weak, vulnerable and scared. The only thing worse than hearing those words, she said, is telling your children.
As a single mum, life was already difficult for Tanya. She’d always believed herself to be a strong person, despite all that life had thrown at her. Listening to her story, I couldn’t agree more – and I’m sure you’ll agree too.
What went through your mind when you found a lump?
My first thoughts were “this lump is huge”. That was followed by “oh no, this is bad, this is really bad”. It took me a whole week to pluck up the courage to make a doctor’s appointment. I kept feeling the lump over and over, and it felt – to me at least – that it was getting bigger every day.
What happened at the doctor’s appointment?
It was a blur, really. I remember leaving the doctor’s in a panic, with the worst case scenario playing over and over in my mind. I rang my sister and said I had to go for an ultrasound and a biopsy, and she came with me. And… I cried about it. I cried a lot. Everything seemed to happen so quickly.
How did your family respond to your diagnosis?
My eldest daughter was living in Tasmania at the time. She wanted to come home immediately. I told her no, stay, I’ll be okay. I didn’t want her to worry. But when I came out of surgery, she was standing in the waiting room. She’d come home anyway; I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy to see her.
My youngest daughter still has moments when she’ll ask “what if I get breast cancer too?” and that breaks my heart. I just continue to reassure her and educate her.
What were your experiences of chemotherapy?
Chemo made me sick and my hair started falling out. All my eyelashes fell out, and my nose hairs too. My nose and eyes watered constantly, which was just horrendous. I remember my sister came around one day to check on me and I said “Oh I’m just that sick, even my eyebrows hurt today!” I love to laugh about these things – you have to laugh.